The road has been long and difficult, but Windows NT finally has a NetWare Directory Service (NDS) client worthy of the name. In fact, it now has two. The Microsoft Client Service for NetWare that ships with NT 4.0 lets you log an NT workstation on to an NDS tree, but the Microsoft client can't run the 16-bit NetWare Administrator (NWADMIN) that ships with NetWare 4.1. The second client is a new Novell NetWare Client for Windows NT (also called the IntranetWare Client for Windows NT Workstation). This client offers many more features than its Microsoft counterpart.

Similar in appearance and functionality to Novell's Client32 releases for Windows 95 and DOS/Windows 3.1, the Novell client supports NT 3.51 and 4.0 and includes an improved 32-bit NetWare Administrator, the new NDS Manager utility, and the NT version of the NetWare Application Launcher (NAL). The client adds new tabbed pages to existing Explorer and Printer Properties dialog boxes, so you can perform many NetWare administrative functions from within the standard NT utilities.

You can see the release of this new client as a sign of Novell's acceptance of NT as a force to be reckoned with in the network OS marketplace. Two facts support this view: Novell quietly renamed NDS as Novell Directory Services, and Novell has promised to release a product in early 1997 that allows integration of NT networks into an NDS database.

Novell's latest client is a vast improvement from previous versions. The new NetWare Client for NT installs easily, performs file-and-print management tasks well, offers improved NDS administration tools, and includes an application launcher that demonstrates the true potential of NDS as a tool for network administrators.

Installation
Novell will distribute its new NT client on CD-ROM as part of forthcoming IntranetWare product releases, and you can download separate versions for diskette and network installations from Novell now. The self-extracting archives expand to create either disk images for 11 floppies or a directory structure built off a \I386 root directory that Novell clearly designed to be stored on a network drive with the NT installation files. This choice of installation methods is an improvement from the previous Novell client, which forced you to make installation diskettes from the release files.

Many more client installation alternatives are available now. For the individual user, the easiest alternative is simply to run setupnw.exe. This program removes the Microsoft client for NetWare, if it is present, and installs the Novell client. Usually no further user interaction, except a reboot, is necessary.

To install the Novell client, you need a network adapter driver. Novell's client can operate with NT's standard Network Driver Interface Specification (NDIS) adapter drivers, or it can use one of the 32-bit Open Data-link Interface (ODI) drivers included with the client. The drivers support a relatively small number of adapters. Note that with this client, you cannot use the 16-bit drivers that ship with most network adapters.

Alternatively, you can install the Novell client from the Network option in NT's Control Panel after you remove the Microsoft NetWare client. Although a serviceable alternative, the Control Panel installation method provides no advantage over the executable setup program. The Novell client includes a separate NetWare/IP support service, which you can install from Control Panel.

For network administrators, the Novell client provides two ways to automate installation on networked machines. For existing NT systems, the Novell package includes an unattend.txt file, which contains the client's configuration parameters. You set them to preconfigure the installation for network users. Then you activate the Automatic Client Upgrade feature by running setupnw.exe with the /acu and /u switches from your users' login scripts. The setup program examines the client already installed on the workstation, determines whether an upgrade is needed, and if so, presents a dialog box for the user's approval before it proceeds with the installation. On a new workstation installation, you can integrate the client configuration parameters into NT's unattend.txt file and install the Novell client with the operating system.

The client installation places most of its files in subdirectories called \netware and \nls\english, which the client creates in the \winnt directory. Like earlier Novell Client32s, this client is not thin. The workstation half of the installation requires 10MB of disk space, and the new administration utilities, which you install on the NetWare server, require an additional 20MB on the sys volume.

Users who perform administration tasks from an NT workstation require another client installation. Run the admsetup.exe program from the workstation. This program creates a \winnt directory off sys:public on a selected NetWare 4.x server. This directory contains the components of the NetWare Administrator, the NDS Manager, and the NetWare Application Launcher (if you have appropriate rights to the server). This feature improves on the process in the earlier client. That process required you to install from floppy disks, using the server install.nlm utility, even though the procedure did nothing but copy files to the sys volume.

Logging On
The Novell client's Login dialog box replaces the NT dialog box, but the Novell dialog box includes tabbed pages that give you a great deal of control over the logon process for both NT and NetWare networks. On the NetWare connection page, you specify the name of your NDS tree or your preferred server for a bindery logon. On the Login page, you enter your username, NDS context, and password. The dialog box provides browse lists for the tree and server selectors, but unfortunately, not for the context selector. A second tab holds the NT options. Here you specify your NT username and domain.

The Novell client offers several options that simplify maintaining the two user accounts for simultaneous NetWare and NT network logons. You can change your NT password to match your NetWare password during logon, manually change either password with one utility that comes with the client, or suppress the NT logon information altogether.

The AutoAdminLogin feature stores your NT username and password in the Registry and automatically supplies them when you log on to NetWare. If the physical security of your computer is not a problem (because it is in a locked office, for example), you can store your NetWare logon information in the same way. When you turn on your machine, you are automatically logged on to both networks. This procedure requires you to manually store your logon information in the Registry, and therefore includes an element of risk. Make sure that your computer is open to remote Registry edits before committing to the process, though, or a typo in the Registry editor could lock you out of your system. Once you are certain that the logon procedure functions properly, you can disable remote administration to preserve your system's security.

The Login dialog box includes screens you can use to control the execution of NetWare login scripts. You can select whether to run scripts at all or specify an alternative to the login script already associated with your account. For complex scripts, you can also specify up to four variables that you can use in your scripts. These variables are like the %1, %2, %3, and %4 variables that you can place on the login.exe command line in the DOS NetWare client.

Client Configuration
The client Properties pages let you permanently configure logon settings such as the preferred NDS tree and context. In the NT Control Panel, the client installation creates an icon that provides access to these pages in NT 3.51. This icon does not function in NT 4.0, however. Instead, you are informed the applet is obsolete and you must access the client Properties dialog box from the Network option in Control Panel.

You can use System Policies to set the client configuration parameters or the unattend.txt file if you want the settings executed during the installation. Usually, the NetWare client requires little configuration beyond the basic logon resources, but you can configure the appearance of the Login dialog box from these pages. To protect the settings, you can configure the properties that you see under Display connection page, Display script page, and Display variables page in the Login dialog box, and clear the check boxes that precede these labels, to prevent users from changing the configuration. Screen 1 shows these Display page settings.

The Properties dialog box contains Advanced logon settings that let you configure the location of a system policy file (a file containing Registry settings that customize the NT desktop interface), or create a roaming user profile that you can store on a network drive or in an NDS container. This approach is ideal for providing a consistent desktop environment for IS support personnel who may have to log on to the network from many different workstations. You can even specify the bitmap graphics and welcome text that appear during the client logon process.

All NetWare clients' configuration settings are stored in the Registry, eliminating the need for a net.cfg file, which earlier DOS clients used. As you see in Screen 2, the Advanced Settings page of the Properties dialog box contains many of the technical parameters that net.cfg previously included.

File Management
Installation of the NetWare client alters the appearance of several elements in NT Explorer. The most obvious change is in the Network Neighborhood display. It now includes trees (e.g., the Production icon in Screen 3) and containers (e.g., the NetWare Department icon), as well as the usual machine and directory objects. When you look under Entire Network, you see that the NetWare Services are broken down into NetWare Servers and NDS trees. NetWare 4.x volumes appear both in the server listing and as NDS objects. You can navigate to files and directories on NetWare volumes through either display, and you can map a drive or change your default context by right-clicking the appropriate object and selecting a command from the pop-up context menu. You can also log on to multiple NDS trees simultaneously, so you can access your entire enterprise.

The NetWare client adds functionality to other Explorer context menus as well. The Properties screens for NetWare files and directories include tabs that let you view general information about the object and set its trustee rights and attributes, if you have the appropriate rights. In Screen 4, you can see how the interface lets you add trustees by selecting user and group objects from a bindery or NDS listing and checking off the rights that you want to give to each. This capability is a boon to network administrators, not only because it simplifies their file system maintenance tasks, but because it lets them delegate these tasks to others more easily.

NDS Support
If the NetWare client does not provide obvious benefits to the novice NetWare user, it will certainly be welcome to managers of NDS databases. The client includes a 32-bit version of the NetWare Administrator that adds many new capabilities. (A 32-bit Administrator shipped with the previous Novell Client for Windows NT, but it was similar in functionality to the 16-bit version.) This new Administrator improves the interface by adding an expanded, configurable button bar and quick access to the Internet (by automatically importing shortcuts and bookmarks from your Web browser to the Internet menu).

Just as the client lets you access multiple NDS trees through NT Explorer, the new NetWare Administrator lets you manage objects on multiple trees simultaneously. You can now open multiple windows in the Administrator. These windows can display either different trees or different views of the same tree. Screen 5 shows two NetWare Administrator windows, providing views of two different NDS trees, PRODUCTION and ROAD_TREE. You can copy files and directories from volumes on one tree to those on another by dragging. You can simultaneously edit properties for several users by selecting multiple objects and choosing Details on Multiple Objects from the Object menu.

The Novell client includes the new NDS Manager graphical utility. This application replaces the Partition Manager in earlier versions of the NetWare Administrator. With NDS Manager, you can create, move, and merge NDS partitions; control and monitor the synchronization of the partitions; and create and delete replicas. NDS Manager also lets you spawn DSREPAIR jobs on your servers, apply DS.NLM updates, and even print out information on the various components of your NDS database.

NetWare Application Launcher
An exciting demonstration of NDS's potential is NAL. Novell includes NAL with the Client32 releases for Windows 95 and DOS/Windows and now with the NT client. NAL uses a snap-in module to extend the schema of the NDS database, letting you create new types of NDS objects that represent network applications. After creating an object, you can configure its properties and deliver the entire package to a user's desktop by associating the application object with an NDS user, group, or container.

The properties of the application object make NAL a useful tool. You can specify application command-line parameters, a working directory, drive mappings, and printer port captures for each object, and none of these parameters take effect until the user launches the application. After the application is closed, the workstation environment returns to its original state until the user launches the application again. Also you can create pre- and post-execution scripts for an application object. You use the NetWare login script language to modify the workstation environment as necessary to run the application, and reset the script afterwards.

NAL can relieve you of many repetitive chores required to give users access to the applications they need. Scripted ini file or Registry changes eliminate the need to install workstations individually, and application-oriented drive mappings and print captures replace those in login scripts.

Once you create and configure the application objects, users have only to run the nal.exe program from the server's \public directory to open a desktop window containing icons for all their network applications. To ensure nal.exe's execution, you can place it in the Windows Startup group or even use it in place of the Windows 3.1 Program Manager.

Performance
What price do you pay for this functionality? The client is free for the downloading. The September 1996 beta (on which this article is based) has bugs, but Novell will address them before the release, and none are showstoppers.

Should you plan an immediate mass migration to this new client for all NT machines on your network? Probably not. The Microsoft client capably handles basic file-and-print functions. It provides easy navigation of the NDS tree and is seamlessly integrated in the NT desktop. If you administer NDS from an NT workstation, you will want these tools, though, and you can easily assimilate the Novell client into the NT installation to use it on all your new machines.

Best of all, the client is quick, even in beta. With some early Client32 betas for Windows 95, the routine was to install the new release, marvel at its many new features, and then go back to the Microsoft client because Client32 was so slow. In contrast, I installed the new IntranetWare Client 4.0 for Windows NT on my workstation for testing, and it is there to stay. (For more about NetWare and NT, see "Interoperability Solutions," page 151.)

IntranetWare Client 4.0 for Windows NT
Contact:
Novell 800-453-1267

Web: http://www.novell.com

Price: Download for free from http://support.novell.com/
Ftp/Updates/nwos/iwnt40/Date0.html